Bethesda Big Train manager Derek Hacopian refuses to read too much into today's match-up with the defending Clark Griffith League champion Vienna Mustangs.
However, with the Big Train off to its best start in Hacopian's six year tenure, a strong showing against the Senators would be a good measuring stick for the remainder of the season.
Bethesda wraps the second of a two-game series against the Senators this evening at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax. The Big Train boasted a league-best 12-4 record through Monday and a 1 1/2 -game lead over second-place Vienna.
"We've had some pretty good teams, but this is definitely one of our best starts," said Hacopian, a Churchill High graduate and all-American at Maryland before taking over as Big Train manager in 1999. "Talent-wise the teams are pretty evenly matched. It should be a good test."
The Big Train got off to a hot start this season, winning 10 of its first 11 league games.
"This team differs from some of my other teams," Hacopian said. "From top to bottom, most guys are coming to the ballpark ready to play. This [league] is a new thing for a lot of the guys. It can be a grueling schedule. It's almost like a college guy getting drafted and playing every day."
Southern Mississippi freshman outfielder Drew Carson leads the Big Train with a .353 batting average and Towson senior pitcher Chris Rhoades is 2-0 with a 1.00 earned run average in a team-high four starts.
Several Montgomery County residents have contributed to Big Train's success, as well. St. John's All-Met pitcher Keith Moreland, who resides in Silver Spring, is 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in four relief appearances. Paint Branch graduate and University of Maryland junior Casey Baron has also been a regular in on the mound, posting a 2-1 record and 1.23 ERA to go with 21 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched.
"Casey and Keith have really contributed a lot," Hacopian said. "Keith was a guy coming out of high school and we weren't really expecting too much out of him. He has exceeded our expectations. Casey has been good for us and has started a couple of games."
Springbrook graduate and Duke sophomore Russell Durfee was a recent roster addition. After trying out for the team before the start of the season, Durfee was told that a roster spot was not available. However, he continued to practice with the team and impressed the coaching staff with his dedication.
"I really respect him a lot," Hacopian said. "He wasn't on the roster early on and we told him he'd have to keep working. He said he wanted to stay and keep working, and he stuck it out for three or four weeks and now is on the roster and will get a chance to pitch for us."
Note: The Big Train will host the Clark Griffith League All-Star game this Friday at Shirley Povich Field at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $7 for adults, $5 for children.